Elevated Wildfire Activity in Florida Panhandle Signifies Need for Proactive Claims Resolution

It’s been six months since Hurricane Michael first made landfall on the Florida Panhandle and hurricane recovery is progressing at a steady rate – major repair completion is projected to be three months away. However, discussion of Michael has resurfaced as officials credit a recent uptick in wildfire activity to hurricane-downed trees strewn across the region.

This activity is not expected to let up anytime soon. Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried noted this is the first of many larger wildfires they expect as Florida enters its dry season. Even as rebuilding efforts following Michael wind down, it’s important for carriers to monitor the risk on their book and ensure properties are made whole again ahead of the next hurricane season.

Florida Properties Are at Greater Risk of Fire Damage

An early April wildfire in Bay County burned 650 acres. It was contained in 48 hours, however, Commissioner Fried argued the fire would have been much smaller if not for the effects of Hurricane Michael. Cleanup of downed trees is slow because Hurricane Michael damaged almost three million acres across north Florida and created roadblocks that hinder firefighter access.

This creates challenges for homeowners who have been working to make their properties whole again following Hurricane Michael, especially in Bay, Calhoun and Gulf Counties. For carriers, staying on the pulse of property changes during this time is key. Recent BuildFax data suggests the most common repairs after Michael as of December 2018 were related to roof maintenance (74.75 percent). After that, 16.71 percent of repairs were to electrical systems and 4.25 percent was for storm damage. With timely insights into structure repairs, carriers can efficiently close the loop on the claims process and ensure homeowners are getting the coverage they need at renewals. From roof replacements, premium-impacting remodels, and more, BuildFax provides carriers with insight into property risk and its evolution.

Ensure Panhandle Properties Don’t Claim Repairs More than Once

Unfortunately, natural disasters foster increased instances of claims fraud. This is most concerning in the Panhandle due to overlapping natural disasters. Homeowners that pocket their claims payment and fail to repair their property risk increased damage ahead of hurricane season. Furthermore, as a result of elevated wildfire activity following Michael, this risk is even greater.

To counter these instances of fraud, BuildFax’s property change insights enables carriers to not only close the loop on claims repairs, but also validate the specific repairs that were made. Last year, following an influx of claims from Hurricane Irma, one Florida carrier found that 50 percent of properties had not yet seen repairs. With detailed, validated property intelligence at their fingertips, the carrier was able to take action ahead of the next hurricane season.

Shifting Weather Impacts Risk Across U.S.

This isn’t the first time we’re seeing natural disasters repeatedly affect the same region. Florida is one of a few states that experiences property damage from a variety of disasters. Recent reports from the U.S. Global Change Research Program suggest that list of states is likely to grow as changes in weather patterns shift the level of risk they pose on U.S. infrastructure.

For more information on how key property insights can help your claims team respond efficiently to customers, contact a BuildFax representative today.